Lakeshore 504 Extends Connections

October 12, 2004
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HOLLAND — A U.S. Small Business Administration lending program has secured marketing agreements with three additional chambers of commerce in western Michigan and is seeking arrangements with others.

The new deals with the Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce, Cornerstone Alliance in BentonHarbor and the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce will give Lakeshore 504 a consistent and larger presence in those markets.

"It will be a good opportunity for us to increase the awareness of the program and in the market we serve by having more visibility," said Julie Parker, the director of the Lakeshore 504.

Operating out of the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce and The Chamber of Commerce in Grand Haven, Lakeshore 504 for years has marketed and administered Small Business Administration loans in a nine-county region.

The Holland Area Chamber of Commerce office serves southern Ottawa, Allegan, Van Buren, Kalamazoo, Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph counties.

The Chamber of Commerce in Grand Haven services northern Ottawa, Oceana and Muskegon counties.

After the Small Business Administration eliminated territorial boundaries for certified development corporations that market and administer loans, Lakeshore 504 began seeking out new marketing partnerships with business and economic development organizations.

The organization also has set up local lending committees in communities it serves to review and process loan applications.

Parker is working to secure "a few more" marketing partnerships with other chambers of commerce in the region, although Lakeshore 504 does not plan to stray too far beyond the territory it has traditionally served, Parker said.

"We may expand a little bit," she said, "but our intention is not to take over the state. That's not what we're about."

Under the marketing alliances, Lakeshore 504 provides the chambers of commerce marketing materials for the Small Business Administration's 504 lending program and processes and reviews loan applications.

Through the marketing partnerships, Lakeshore 504 and participating chambers of commerce can steer loan applicants, if needed, into other services and assistance that the business groups offer, Parker said.

"With the connection, we can give more to the customer," she said. "We're not just giving them a loan and walking away."

Working through certified development corporations like Lakeshore 504, the Small Business Administration provides small and start-up businesses up to $1 million in long-term, low-interest financing.

It also can provide up to $1.3 million in certain circumstances such as revitalizing a business district, rural development, or if the borrower is a minority enterprise.

SBA loans can cover 40 percent of a project's costs. A borrower must first secure 50 percent of what they need from a private lender and 10 percent of their own capital.

Loans are for projects of at least $125,000 and can cover the costs to acquire or upgrade a building and purchase machinery or equipment with a minimum 10-year useful life.

Through the first eight months of the federal fiscal year, Lakeshore 504 had administered eight SBA loans totaling a collective $3.6 million.    

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